Johnny Rocket

10, College Approach, SE10

I have a friend who, after many years of happy marriage (or we thought so anyway) suddenly announced it was all a sham, split up with her husband and got divorced in record time. She went underground for a (very) few months so when we finally got together I thought I was going to spend a lot of time dispensing very gooey cake.

Instead she seemed quite chipper. She’d been dating, she told me. Great, I said. Anyone interesting? Well, there was one, she supposed. She didn’t seem particularly bothered.

We had a nice cup of tea and cake (well – I wasn’t going to give up the cake opportunity, was I?) and I suggested we meet the next week. She apologised. She couldn’t make next week as she was getting married.

To the guy she’d only just met? Was she sure? Did she love him? Well, he was the best of the bunch and she didn’t want to waste any more time…

She told me she needed a ring, and pronto. By Sunday, in fact. But she didn’t want any old plain gold band – she’d already done that. She wanted something wild, to celebrate the New Her.

Frankly, there was only one place that sprang to my mind for such an item. A woman with newly-found gay abandon, lots of cash and an impending marriage?

Johnny Rocket is a jeweller and retailer. From what I can tell, they do their own range of interesting pieces, and they sell the work of up, coming and arrived contemporary designers, some of whom I’ve actually even heard of.

In a selfish kind of way I was grateful to my friend as up until that point I had only ever pressed my insubstantial phantasmagorical nose against the glass of the little boutique in College Approach. This gave me an excuse to have a nose around at first hand, while my friend bought herself the ultimate funky love token.

It’s a tiny little jewel of a place itself. Classic glass cabinets in dark wood, filled to the gills with twinkly things – both individual sparky one-offs and items from designers’ core ranges. A blood-red velvet sofa sits below an ornate rococo-style mirror and the almost obligatory chandelier, and a little staircase leads, presumably, to Mr Johnny Rocket (John Pearce, I believe, who works with his mate Niall Paisley) and his magic workshop. Was it from down those steps that he created Jamiroquai’s headdress and half of Kylie’s jewel box? Probably not as he’s only been here since 2005, but it’s good to dream.

You have to press a buzzer to get in, so browsing is strictly controlled – individual service is the name of the game. That’s perfectly understandable given the value of the goods on display, of course. Goods that range from a single, understated, elegant statement to the show-stopping kind of geejaws that need the sort of occasion I don’t get to go to very often to set them off.

It harks back to the days of proper service. Someone actually takes the time to find out about your occasion and help you find something special for it – though of course not everyone has to wait for an occasion – while we were in there someone came in for a fitting for some individually-created piece who had a cosy familiarity with the staff (and Mr R. himself) others reserve for the greengrocer or the baker. It’s now of course, an ambition to add Johnny Rocket to my weekly shopping list…

My only possible complaint is, perhaps his own success. While we were in there, it filled up with gossipy regulars, whose chatter, toddlers and sheer presence somewhat put me off my stroke. Suddenly I felt ever so-slightly abandoned, though that may well have had something to do with the fact that I was only there as “supportive friend” anyway.

Will my pal’s new marriage last? Who can tell? But that ring. That ring is here to stay…

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